Tell Me Something Good: Olympic gold medalist remembers 1964 Tokyo games

Tell Me Something Good

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.- The Olympic games will shine the spotlight on Tokyo over the next few weeks, and one Springfield woman will be paying especially close attention. Ginny Fuldner (Duenkel) competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as a swimmer. Watching the games 57 years later will be a walk down memory lane.

“I was just this 17-year-old teenager,” remembers Fuldner, “It didn’t hit me until probably years later that I had won medals in the Olympics.”

As a senior in high school, Fuldner qualified for the backstroke and the 400 freestyle. Fuldner was the reigning world record holder in the backstroke and was favored to win the race; however, she came in third.

“I came in third place by 3/10 of a second between first and third. I was quite upset. People might say, ‘You just won a bronze medal in the Olympics, why are you upset?’ But I wanted to get a gold medal in that.”

After the first race, the assistant coach gave her advice that changed the trajectory of the Olympic games for her.

“Everybody in that race is in the same physical condition as you are,” explains Fuldner, “The one who is going to win that race is the one who wants it the most.”

She spent the next two days visualizing the outcome she hoped for.

“I knew when I stood, it sounds crazy, when I stood on the starting block, I knew I was going to win the race because I had spent so much time visualizing. It turned out I was exactly where I wanted to be all through the race and at the end.”

In the end, she was at the top of the podium with the gold medal around her neck.

Now, many years later, Fuldner was going to return to the Olympic games for the first time, taking her family along for the experience of a lifetime. Of course, the rules won’t allow for it this year, but that won’t stop Fuldner from watching the games closely and remembering her experience of a lifetime.

“You don’t really think, wow, I’m about ready to swim in the Olympics. I didn’t appreciate it back then.”

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